The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Matadors reach 10 wins, recover from mentally draining Washington State match

Edward Segal
The Matadors hang out after beating Chaminade University and Westmont College in the doubleheader Tuesday, March 26 in Northridge, Calif.

The match against Washington State took a lot out of the Matadors. Head coach Gary Victor talked to them about their discipline after that loss, and the Matadors answered the call.

Two days after the battle against the Cougars, the Matadors (10-2, 4-0 Big West) went to UC Irvine to try and recover. CSUN took the doubles point, but were on the ropes with four players losing their first set in singles. With sophomore Angela Ho and redshirt junior Yuliia Zhytelna winning their matches, the Matadors only needed one player to come back, but two did. Redshirt senior Victoria Santibañez Luna and freshman Elena Goodman each battled through three tough sets as they worked to get the Matadors the 5-2 victory.

When the doubleheader rolled around two days later, the Matadors ran eight players while resting their top two, Zhytelna and graduate student Sasha Turchak. Santibañez Luna also had the day off. Sophomores Sofia Dermenjyan and Vitoria Solis Urdiales made their season debuts for the team.

“Today was about our players who don’t play every match. They’re so unselfish and they’re so great with their teammates,” Victor said after the doubleheader. “…All of them are super capable of playing at a high level and in a lineup and in our lineup. We just have so many good players that they’re not always in it.”

In the Chaminade game, the Matadors won 6-0 across the board, except for one game junior Cindy Ung dropped to Selena Buttery in set two.

Against Westmont, the Matadors had a tougher time, but still took care of business pretty easily. Sophomore Emma Moratalla Sanz moved up to court number one and needed an extra game in what was the closest set of any match that day, which she won 7-5. She jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second set, but it remained unfinished since the Matadors quickly won the match.

They now have four shutouts on the season.

“It just speaks to the depth of the team,” Victor said. “Everybody works hard, and because we’re so deep, we can do this. We can take out Sasha, Yuliia and Vika [Santibañez Luna]”

The Matadors seem to have found the recipe for success. They have gone with three main doubles pairings so far.

Goodman and Ho are 7-1, clicking instantly as Goodman tried to fill the void left by Jolene Coetzee, who graduated and became an assistant coach. Their only loss as a doubles pairing came in the Washington State match.

Zhytelna and Turchak are 6-3, picking up right where they left off last year, while Ung and Santibañez Luna are 7-2. Last year, Ung was with Vitoria Solis Urdiales, and they finished 6-6. Ung and her new partner have already outpaced last year’s production.

In singles, Moratalla Sanz and Santibañez Luna each have seven wins. The freshman only has one loss, while the redshirt senior has three. Zhytelna is right behind them at 6-2. For the newcomers, junior Nicole West is 6-3 and Goodman hasn’t lost, sitting at 3-0.

Not including Turchak, the other five who have played in singles for CSUN are a combined 14-2.

Turchak, however, has struggled as CSUN’s number one, winning only three of her first ten singles matches.

Before the season, Turchak said she knew the challenges that lay ahead.

“Before, if I’m, like, lower in the lineup, there’s a bit more expectation to maybe win, or sometimes I would have easier matches,” Turchak said. “From playing one and going onward, there’s never going to be an easy match.”

Struggles from the number one are not new for the Matadors, as Coetzee went 7-13 last year.

Taking on the opponent’s best player night in and night out is a tough ask, and the depth of the Matadors continues to be what’s holding them down despite these struggles.

This was proven in the most recent match against Fullerton. The Matadors lost the doubles point, and both Turchak and Zhytelna lost in singles as they returned to action. The rest of the Matadors stepped up and stole the match, with West and Santibañez Luna rallying to win after losing the first set.

Goodman and West have fit right in and filled some holes CSUN had at the bottom of their rotation last year, and the development of Moratalla Sanz has been a huge help for the Matadors on the middle courts.

The Matadors have two non-conference games left, one of which is against UCLA (10-4, 4-1 PAC-12) on April 3.

The Bruins are ranked 17th in the nation by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, and are 8-0 at home. The Matadors will have to contend with three-time PAC-12 Player of the Week Tian Fangran, who’s 9-2 in singles, and the potential pairing of Ahmani Guichard and Anne-Christine Lutkemeyer, who are 11-1 this year.

CSUN will then travel to the Pacific before playing five Big West matches to finish the season. Three of those games are against teams right behind the Matadors, who are sitting at first, in the standings.

“There’s a little bit more of a target on our backs because of our start, and now we just have to stay in the process and play the sport and love the sport,” Victor said.

The Matadors started the season 12-2 last year, so the target has only grown now that they’ve replicated their success. They finished 6-3 in conference play in 2023, but are undefeated so far and are on pace to beat that record.

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